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Anast v. LTF Club Operations Co., Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

November 20, 2017

GREGORY ANAST, Plaintiff,
v.
LTF CLUB OPERATIONS CO., INC. and LIFE TIME FITNESS, INC., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          MATTHEW F. KENNELLY, United States District Judge

         About 1:00 a.m. on August 9, 2014, Gregory Anast was playing basketball with a friend at the Life Time Fitness (LTF) facility in Vernon Hills, Illinois. He saw an employee of LTF who appeared to be sweeping or mopping the floor but did not see exactly what the man was doing. While chasing a loose ball, Anast slipped and fell near the edge of the basketball court and broke his ankle. After he fell, he saw water standing on the floor where he had slipped. The person who likely was the LTF employee testified that he had been cleaning around the edges of the floor with a damp mop and bucket.

         The defendants, LTF Club Operations Co. and Life Time Fitness, Inc. have moved for summary judgment. In deciding the motion, the Court views the evidence in the light most favorable to Anast and draws reasonable inferences in his favor.

         The operator of a business owes its customers a duty to exercise reasonable care to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition for their use. See, e.g., Ward v. K Mart Corp., 136 Ill.2d 132, 141, 554 N.E.2d 223, 227 (1990). When a business invitee like Anast is injured in a fall, the business operator is liable if the condition that caused the fall was placed there by the operator's agents or if the operator or its agents had actual notice of the condition or it was there long enough that it should have been discovered with ordinary care. See, e.g., Tomczak v. Planetsphere, Inc., 315 Ill.App.3d 1033, 1039, 735 N.E.2d 662, 667 (2000).

         Anast has offered evidence that would permit a reasonable jury to find that his fall was caused by water standing on the floor of the basketball court and that the water was placed there by an agent of LTF or at least had been there long enough that an employee of LTF reasonably should have discovered it. Specifically, Anast testified that he slipped hard, indicating to him that there was something unusual about the condition of the floor, and after he fell, he saw a puddle of water in the area where his foot slipped. In addition, there was an LTF worker in the area who was working with a wet mop who had been there for some time before the fall, and there was no one else in the area, likely due to the late hour. LTF is not entitled to summary judgment based on the insufficiency of the evidence offered by Anast.

         LTF's primary argument in support of summary judgment is that Anast's claim is barred by an exculpatory clause in the agreement that he signed when he because a member of LTF some months earlier. The agreement contains sections entitled "Assumption of Risk" and "Waiver of Liability, " which include the following undertakings:

2. ASSUMPTION OF RISK. I understand that there are dangers, hazards, and risks of injury or damage, some of which are inherent in the use of Life Time's premises, facilities, equipment, services, activities, or products . . . .
. . .
B. Risks. I understand that the dangers, hazards, and risks of injury or damage in the Use of Life Time Premises and Services ("Risks") may include but are not limited to (1) slips, trips, collisions, falls, and loss of footing or balance, including "slip and falls" and falls from rock climbing structures or fitness equipment; (2) drowning; (3) equipment failure, malfunction, or misuse; (4) property theft, loss or damage, including from lockers or vehicles; and (5) other accidents or incidents that may result in injury or damage to me, Minor Member(s), Other Member(s) or Guests.
. . .
I understand that Risks and Injuries in the Use of Life Time Premises and Services (collectively, "Risks of Injury") may be caused, in whole or in part, by the ORDINARY NEGLIGENCE OF LIFE TIME, me, Minor Member(s), Other Member(s), Guest(s) and/or other persons. FULLY [sic] UNDERSTAND, AND VOLUNTARILY AND WILLINGLY ASSUME, THE RISKS OF INJURY.
3. WAIVER OF LIABILITY. On behalf of myself . . ., I hereby voluntarily and forever release and discharge Life Time from, covenant and agree not to sue Life Time for, and waive, any claims, demands, actions, causes of action, . . . or any other alleged liabilities or obligations of any kind or nature, whether known or unknown (collectively, "Claims") for any Injuries to me . . . in the Use of Life Time Premises and Services which arise out of, result from, or are caused by any Ordinary NEGLIGENCE OF LIFE TIME, me, any Minor Member(s), any Other Member(s), any Guest(s), and/or any other person . . . . (collectively, "Negligence Claims").
A. Negligence Claims. I understand that Negligence Claims include but are not limited to Life Time's (1) negligent design, construction (including renovation or alteration), repair, maintenance, operation, supervision, monitoring, or provision of Life Time Premises and Services; (2) negligent failure to warn of or remove a hazardous, unsafe, dangerous or defective condition; (3) negligent failure to provide or keep premises in a reasonably safe condition; (4) negligent provision of or failure to provide emergency care; (5) negligent provision of services; and (6) negligent hiring, selection, training, ...

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